Advice for Women Artists and Arts Leaders from Women Artists and Arts Leaders

By Paulette Beete

The stats are not encouraging: women artists make only $0.79 for every dollar men artists make, as reported in the most recent Survey of Public Participation in the Arts. And you don't need to look far to find yearly reports from the likes of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts or the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media to see how far women lag behind men when it comes to holding leadership positions in the arts and culture field. Still, as NEA Chair Maria Rosario Jackson wrote in her statement for Women's History Month, "We celebrate the power of women in the arts—past, present, and future. Their contributions make possible the best version of us and the nation we aspire to be." To honor the spirit of all of the women artists and arts leaders on whose shoulders we stand, those women who despite the odds and the naysayers persisted and insisted that women's stories, women's voices mattered, we offer you these words of encouragement from women in the arts who have inspired us with their work, with their leadership, and with their refusal to give up on even the hardest of days. We invite you to browse the Art Works blog, our podcast library, and the American Artscape magazine archives to find even more stories of perseverance, empowerment, and triumph. 

Most people think that there is not much any single individual can do to change things, but if they don’t try, if everybody has that attitude, nobody will do anything. – Cerise Lim Jacobs, White Snake Projects
 "I often want to embrace people and say, "If I’m the leader, I am not going to forget your voice. We’re going to share this resource, and this privilege we have of seeing stories onstage." – Diane Rodriguez


"Stay focused and stay in love with what it is that you are doing. If you love it and you’re passionate about it, it’s going to take you places—maybe not where this person is going or that person, but where you need to go." – Dianne Reeves
I as the leader have a responsibility to expand my own expectations constantly, to be continually pushing what my line is of what I expect and what I think is possible because the further I push that line the further they’re able to. – Emily Pilloton-Lam


I think that's one thing as women that we can bring to the world, that one can have authority and exude that authority and still be open and vulnerable and willing to, through that vulnerability, invite others to open up as well. – Rita Dove
"We are strong enough to stand tall tearlessly, we are brave enough to bend to cry, and we are sad enough to know that we must laugh again." – Nikki Giovanni